(1999-2009) Travel pattern of Bangkok: how the BTS system is used?
Before the establishment of BTS Skytrain and other Mass Transit Railway systems , the mode of transport in Bangkok already include a wide a range of ways. Buses, Taxi, Tuk Tuk and motorcycles are the many choices that Bangkok people would prefer to travel. In some instances, the traditional waterway transport are still proven to be an effective means of transport in certain parts of the city. In this article, we will be looking into how different social groups would engage with the Skytrain system.
Low income people
The low income people in Bangkok are people earning around 6000 baht a month. In their case, they have little incentive engage with the BTS system because of the high ticket price. As mentioned before, the cost of using the BTS system would take up one third of their income. To these people, they would still prefer to use the bus system, which the price stretches from only around 5 to 15 baht compared to BTS price of around 40 to 60 baht. The condition in buses is notorious, especially in the rainy days, where it is hot and humid. The traffic congestion would take about 2-3 hours, and the people have to wake at 4 in the morning to go to work on time. For these people, they have a relatively lower time cost and have much less incentive to travel efficiently.
Another reason of not engaging with the BTS is because of the catchment area. Many low income families come from rural parts of Thailand or outskirts of Bangkok where the BTS system could not reach. They have no choice but to use bus, boat and heavy train, in order to travel into inner Bangkok for employment opportunities.
Middle and Upper class
The case for the middle and upper class is much more diverse.To these people, they see Skytrain a symbol of modern living in Bangkok. Many Condominiums and Apartments use the Skytrain or the MRT as part of their advertisement as a convenient and more privileged method to travel around the city. In the past, these social class were looking for a suburb type of single house living influenced by the Western living styles. Now, they would prefer to acquire a condo near the Skytrain stations to take the Skytrain to their office.
Besides proximity to their office, their choice of using Skytrain is also affected by their consumption habit. Sudang Eksuwan, an Assistant Secretary interviewed by Bangkok Post, believe that “Skytrain is a viable option not just because of its convenience but also because it is in walking distance to popular shopping areas and business districts.” Many department store nowadays try to have a Skywalk from the Skytrain station to their building. Such development resembles the vision of city of the future by Harvey Wiley Corbett, where the future city is dominated by elevated infrastructures.The concentrations of these more privileged members of the society in these commercial areas are the major part of the ridership of Skytrain.
The efficiency and punctuality of the Skytrain system also plays a major role. According to Taweewat Wiwattanawanich, a managing director interviewed by Bangkok Post, he chooses to use BTS Skytrain because he would like to “ reach his appointments on time” . It was also easier for him to “ estimate how many clients I can see”. The time cost is much higher to him. “ We can always find ways to make money but we cannot buy time.”
However, it is crucial not to overlook the ever growing of car ownership in relationship with the mentality of the middle and upper class. They see owning a car as a question of status and modern living. At the same time,there is still some distance to reach the BTS station from their home. In some stations , they offer parking lot for commuters. Considering the crime rate in Bangkok, many of these middle and higher class people ( a significant portion of western foreigners) would prefer having their own car. They would mainly see the skytrain as a mean for quick travel between commercial zones or a short cut when commuting longer distances but never the only means of travel.
Bengtsson, Magnus. The Bangkok Skytrain – The Transportation Solution for Bangkok People? Master’s thesis, UMEÅ University , Department of Social and Economic Geography , 2006.
Bohwongprasert, Yvonne. “The Humans of BTS Life Speaks with Seven Commuters to Find out How Important the Skytrain Is in Their Daily Life.” Bangkok Post, January 19, 2016.